Ed Driscoll


“Nipplegate” is what they’re calling it on NRO’S “The Corner” this morning, and understandably so. But the vulgarity of the off-field activities at the Super Bowl goes way beyond Janet Jackson and MTV’s schtick during halftime. As the Washington Post’s long-time liberal TV critic Tom Shales wrote:

An exciting game — by Super Bowl standards — between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers was upstaged not only by its halftime show but also by the “edgy” and often crude humor of the commercials. Over the years — partly because of the huge expense involved — Super Bowl commercials have become widely ballyhooed events in themselves, and this year some sponsors, paying up to $2.9 million for a 30-second spot, went the smut route in order to stand out in the crowd.

Early in the evening, a supposedly hilarious beer commercial featured a dog that was trained to bite men in the crotch and hold on. The man being bitten moaned and grimaced in pain and finally surrendered his can of Bud Light.

As it happened, Bud Light set the standards for tastelessness and self-congratulatory humor. A later commercial, stealing a joke from a classic episode of the sitcom “Seinfeld,” involved a flatulent horse. The animal, tied to a carriage, emitted an outburst from beneath its tail that caused a candle to burst into flame and burn the hair of the woman holding it. A loud sound effect made it clear that the horse was suffering digestive distress.

Many of the other Super Bowl commercials seemed conspicuously inappropriate for an event that is a national rite and the kind of rare TV attraction that brings families together in front of the set. CBS chose to air a spot advertising the upcoming horror movie “Van Helsing” even though it contained extremely disturbing and graphic images of brutality and gore and despite the fact that it has yet to be rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. If the film were eventually to be rated NC-17, it would be contrary to network policy to carry any commercials for it.

Based on excerpts shown, “Van Helsing” will earn an R, or Restricted, rating, meaning the film is considered suitable for those under 17 only if they are accompanied by a parent or other adult. The ad was wall-to-wall with monsters baring fangs and implied horrific violence.

The negative vibes given off by so many off-color or violent commercials put a soggy cloud over what was supposed to be an evening of wholesome fun. Some of the spots were funny; Jessica Simpson and the Muppets had a high time in their commercial for Pizza Hut, and Homer Simpson starred in a funny spot.

But the ghastly output from Bud Light included a commercial in which a chimpanzee talked to a beautiful girl as they sat together on a couch while she waited for her date to return from the kitchen. The monkey made a pass at the girl and asked, “So, how do you feel about back hair?” There was also an excess of commercials for drugs designed to help men suffering from erectile dysfunction.

I think this Super Bowl set a trio of firsts: first use of the world “erection” (spoken by the narrator–James Naughton, I think–in the Cialis ad), first commercial with flatulence, and first nipple. Naughton was the actor in the mid-70s TV series version of Planet of the Apes, and as Charlton Heston would say, yesterday’s Super Bowl was a madhouse. A maaaaadhouse.

Or, maybe it wasn’t.

Oddly enough, I never saw Janet’s boob, and apparently, neither did the twenty or so other people watching the game at my house. By the end of the Super Bowl halftime show, my wife was serving sliced ham and noodle koogle to our guests, who were getting ready to settle back in for the second half, and I was bopping between the kitchen and the den. During the first five minutes of the halftime show, I was progressively turning the sound lower, as nobody here seemed to care about Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, Justin Whathisname and the rest of the halftime performers.

I had my PC on during the game, but mostly to have Yahoo’s NFL coverage loaded. It was only when I clicked over to the Drudge Report after the game that I saw the photo of Janet and her boob. (And fortunately so, it seems: Janet’s nipple apparently completely ruined the game for Stephen Green. Well, maybe not completely…)

More thoughts later.